Kung Pao Chicken
by Orris Onken

This dish is commonly served in Asian restaurants. Do not be fooled. The version below will spoil you and Chinese restaurant versions will never be satisfying again.

3 boned chicken breasts
2 egg whites, lightly whipped
4 tsp corn starch
3 Tbs bean sauce
2 Tbs hoi sin sauce
2 Tbs chili paste with garlic
3 tsp sugar
2 Tbs dry sherry or rice wine
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic (peeled and flattened but not chopped)
2 cups peanut oil
16 hot dried red peppers
2 cups raw shelled unsalted peanuts

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine the chicken with the egg white and corn starch. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This creates a very light batter and prevents the chicken from sticking together when cooking.

Combine the bean sauce, hoi sin sauce, chili paste, sugar wine, vinegar, and garlic. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok, and when it is just short of smoking, add the peanuts. You may turn off the heat or leave it on briefly. Once the first couple of peanuts begin to turn light golden brown, remove them all. They will continue to cook after removed from the oil. Drain.

Reheat the oil and add the chicken for about 45 seconds. Once the first piece of chicken begins to turn slightly brown, remove all the chicken and drain.

Remove all but 2 T of oil, add the peppers, and cook them until the peppers are almost black. If you are sensitive, wear a military gas mask while cooking the peppers. When peppers are done add the sauce, the chicken and the nuts and heat thoroughly. Serve over rice.

When eating Kung Pao chicken, do not eat the peppers or the hunks of garlic unless you are a fan of culinary pain. These items are intended to rub against the other ingredients and impart flavor. If you are cooking for very stupid people, you, as cook, should removed these items before serving.

A NOTE ABOUT RICE. Rice is properly cooked by rinsing the rice until the water runs clear, then putting it in the rice cooker according to the directions and pushing the "on" button. If you do not own a rice cooker, sell your food processor or one of your children and buy one.

The basic rice in your household should be short-grain, highest quality, Japanese sticky rice. Other kinds have uses, but Onken cooks do not know what those uses are. Do not buy long-grain rice, and do not make rice so that the grains fall away from each other like antisocial little maggots. It's disgusting. If you worry that rinsing the rice will remove nutrients, forget it. Rinsing removes the talc that is added to make the rice look white when you pour it out of the bag. If you are considering brown rice or some other "healthful" alternative, go eat a pine tree and skip the rice altogether. The Japanese got it right a thousand years ago in the rice business. Don't improve on it.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN THE WEENIE WAY. When in a hurry you can do a quick kung pao by simply cooking up the chicken as in the above recipe, adding the sauce, adding a couple cups of unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, and heating the whole thing up in the microwave. The peanuts will not be as fresh and the only spiciness will come from the chili sauce, but it makes a good meal in a hurry.

A REMINDER ABOUT ASIAN SAUCES. Do not buy your Asian sauces in supermarket or other "regular" stores. Those places consider them "gourmet" and charge far in excess of what they are worth. Go to an Asian market. The employees may not speak English, but the low prices apply to roundeyes too.


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